[Milton-L] Metrics of "And Tiresias and Phineus Prophets old."

Gregory Machacek Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu
Tue Mar 16 09:01:26 EDT 2010


Harold Skulsky writes:  "As for the Sophoclean-Miltonic treatment of the
element between the first and final syllables in the prophet's name, I
favor a trisyllabic reading, with the second iota read consonantally:
"Tei-res-yan.""

But then how is Sophocles distribution of the name across four syllables a
model for Milton?  (Except in the aspect that interested the original
poster, Milton's accent on the first syllable of Teiresias).

I'm not trying to put you on the spot, or just quibble.  I've become
genuinely interested in how Milton would have liked this line pronounced in
oral delivery.  In the end, I think you're right.  He would have had the
name in his ear in its Greek qualitative scansion (a choriamb, essentially)
and so converted it to accentual English with a first-syllable stress; but
then also allowed himself the elision of -i- and -as-, for a three-syllable
version of the name, to keep his meter (a cretic, essentially).

Incidentally, I don't think Michael Gillum is correct that the "And" in
this line could have been omitted (to secure our usual pronunciation of
Tei-REE-se-AS).  It's not just a list of four blind legendary figures with
whom Milton feels kinship, but two pairs:  two blind singers (Thamyris and
Homer), *as well as* two blind prophets.  Without the "And," the earlier
"those other two" would be disconcerting  (Unless he changed it to "those
other four," I guess).

Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College



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